Exactly 95 years ago this month, local baseball fans were treated to an appearance by the legendary “Sultan of Swat,” Babe Ruth.
The former Red Sox outfielder had been traded to the New York Yankees the previous year and was already proving well worth his $125,000 purchase price. On July 5th, 1921 just two days before his visit to Rochester, Ruth scored his 31st home run of the season.
This achievement only further mounted anticipation among locals for the impending Yankees’ exhibition game versus the International League’s Rochester Club on July 7th.
“No exhibition game arranged for Rochester in years- if ever before-has attracted the attention and aroused the enthusiasm of the one with the New York club, for everybody wants to get a glimpse of “Babe” Ruth,” the Democrat & Chronicle noted.
Fans not only wanted to see Ruth, they wanted to witness one of his patented homers. The Rochester Club’s manager, George Stallings, made it clear, however, that the Rochester Club would in no way assist the Yankee achieve this feat.
He informed reporters, “I shall instruct my pitchers to pitch to Ruth as hard as to any other batsman. Then, if he does drive one over the fence, the fans may be sure that it is something more than an empty honor…The fans want to see him hit. Nevertheless my pitchers will not aid or abet him in any way to adding to the home runs he has made. If the ‘Babe’ makes a home run it will be in spite of, rather than because of the pitching he gets.”
Nearly 6,000 eager sports fans descended upon the Bay Street ball yard for the exhibition game on July 7th, 1921. Requests for advance tickets had poured in from every town and city in Western New York.
Although excitement surrounding the match-up had reached fever pitch by the one o’clock start time, the game itself proved fairly mundane.
The Democrat & Chronicle reported: “The hot, sultry air did not serve to enliven the proceedings of the game, but as a whole, the fray was a cleanly played affair. There was no sensational work on either side, and those fans who came out to the ball yard were distinctly disappointed if they thought they would see some flashy playing by the teams.”
Babe Ruth’s contribution was no exception. The famed baller only cracked one hit—a single—during his four trips to the plate.
The Great Bambino’s less than great performance garnered some cutting criticism from the Rochester club’s fan base. Reporters on the scene noted that “the crowd apparently went out to the Bay street yard to razz him, for the “Babe” came in for some especially hard calls from the fans.”
And although many fans had hoped to see a Babe Ruth home run, there was in fact much joy in Rochester(ville) when the mighty Bambino struck out.
The Rochester club ultimately defeated Ruth and the New York Yankees, 4-2.